Sal smiled slightly as Tai slumped down in a seat next to her. The young man’s eyes were dark with exhaustion and he leaned over to rest against her arm.
“That bad?” she asked softly.
“I got everyone settled into rooms,” he replied. “The Pratts seem to be old hands at this. They already know about the harnesses if we have to do a liftoff.”
“Miss Evans is fine. She had me show her how the harness worked and then said she was going to nap and asked to be wakened for dinner. The kid though, he didn’t listen to anything I had to say,” Tai groused. “I think we’re going to have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t have an accident.”
“That bad?” she echoed her earlier question.
“He’s a spoiled brat,” was the flat answer. “He didn’t want to carry his own bags. He thought it was unfair that I helped the ladies off the shuttle and not him. I was obviously an uncouth, uneducated space monkey that would never amount to anything but more space junk.”
“Ouch,” Sal murmured. “Captain is going to hate him.”
“Yep, like crazy.”
“Did you tell him you’re actually the son of a Lord?”
“Nope. I really don’t care what he thinks,” Tai told her seriously. “Like I said, he’s a brat. The Pratts were nice. Mrs. Pratt stared down the brat’s mother. And Miss Evans seems to be sweet.”
“She young and cute?”
“Ah, no,” Tai grinned. “She’s about sixty, but still pretty.”
“So no chance of an indiscreet affair?”
“Remember she’s not my type, Sal,” Tai laughed. She giggled with him. “Is Captain due back soon?”
“Within the hour,” Sal said with a nod. “Seems he picked up a passenger.”
“I thought it was a straight cargo run.”
“The Steinbergs decided that they want someone to take their package to its destination personally.”
Tai made a face. “I hate when they do that. Why does Captain still do business with them?”
“Because they’re good customers despite the fact that they always seem to change their minds at every turn,” she smiled suddenly. “Though he did say something about charging them an extra fee for every time they change something.”
“Oh, that’s good,” Tai laughed. “They’re going to hate that.”
“Yes, well maybe that will change their ways.”
They shared a look. “Doubtful.”
“Always,” he whispered, rolling over to meet dark eyes.
“So you shall have.”
“I didn’t mean to-“
“Shh, I don’t blame you, a grá*. I love you.”
“I love you too. Forever.”
“Forever. You will find me. I know you will.”
“Something wrong?” he asked finally, breaking the silence that had surrounded them for hours.
“Yeah,” Charles sighed. “Something about our passenger.”
“Other than the Steinbergs being assholes again?” Erna joked.
Charles glared at him. “Yes, other than that. There’s something familiar about him. Something I should remember.”
“Okay,” Erna said slowly. “His name?”
“Maybe. I’m not sure.”
“Well, when we get back to the ‘Hawk you should call Cairo, see if she knows.”
There was a moment of quiet then a soft exhalation. “Yeah, you’re right. But I hate asking her for information. She lords it over me for years after.”
“That’s what sisters are for,” Erna pointed out.
“Shut up, love,” Charles said, throwing a fake punch. “You check on our guest in the last little bit?”
“Yeah, he’s still asleep.”
“Huh, most people don’t fall asleep that easily in the presence of strangers.”
“Unless they have nothing to fear,” Erna reminded him.
“True. You’re right. I’ll contact Cairo. The lack of fear, the familiarity, all of it says something strange is going on and I want to know before I risk the crew and the ‘Hawk.”